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Monday, March 04, 2024

Three Gators crack top 20 of PGA Tour University rankings

There are new benefits for amateurs who maintain their high rank

Florida senior Yuxin Lin drives the ball at the VyStar Credit Union Gators Invitational Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023.
Florida senior Yuxin Lin drives the ball at the VyStar Credit Union Gators Invitational Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023.

Gators senior golfers have a chance to make it to the big leagues through the Professional Golfers Association Tour University for the first time. 

Three seniors from the Florida men’s golf team are ranked in the top 20 of the PGA Tour University rankings. As of April 5, Fred Biondi is ranked third, Yuxin Lin sits at ninth and Ricky Castillo at 15. 

The stakes were raised Nov. 14 — becoming and maintaining a high rank is more crucial than it was in past years. Division I golfers now have a direct path to tour membership through the new PGA Tour University, an association for college amateur golfers.

The program is “designed and administered to identify the best college golfers in the United States and to provide such players with playing opportunities on tours operated under the PGA Tour umbrella,” according to the PGA TOUR.

National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I golfers who meet certain criteria and are ranked based on winning, competitiveness and season-long performance are eligible for PGA Tour University. Since 2020 — in partnership with the World Amateur Golf Ranking — PGA Tour University ranks players based on their average performance in eligible tournaments. 

Players competing in these tournaments will earn points equivalent to the amount awarded by WAGR until May 29, when the ranking period for the class of 2023 ends. 

The eligible player who finishes ranked first nationally will earn complete PGA Tour membership and be eligible for open, full-field events following the NCAA Division I National Championship. 

Players finishing first through fifth will automatically advance to the final stage of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying Tournament and earn Korn Ferry Tour membership for that season. They will also be exempt into all open, full-field Korn Ferry Tour events.

Those finishing sixth through 10th will earn conditional membership for the Korn Ferry Tour and an exemption into the final stage of the current season’s PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament. These players will earn membership to PGA Tour Canada or PGA Tour Latinoamérica for the following year. 

Players ranked 11th to 20th will receive membership on PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamérica along with an exemption into the second stage of the current season’s PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament.

Biondi, Lin and Castillo have each been recognized this season for their successes. Biondi was named Southeastern Conference Golfer of the Week twice this season — along with Jackson Suber of Ole Miss and Cole Sherwood of Vanderbilt  — making it four times in his career. He took the title in week seven and 15; Lin earned it in week 10; and Castillo took the title in week eight. 

The seniors snagged titles and awards all season long. The most recent was awarded to Biondi in the 15th week of the season. He earned his second individual win of the season in the Augusta Haskins Award Invitational; he was named SEC Golfer of the Week and earned an exemption into the PGA Tour's 2023 3M Open Championship. 

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Biondi is the second Gator this season to secure an exemption into a PGA event. 

Lin won the Southern Highlands Collegiate for a spot in the Shriners Children’s Open. He’s also on the Haskins Award Watch List, which is one of the highest honors in college golf that goes to the best college golfer of the season. 

“It’s a dream for every college player,” Lin said. “It’s an honor to be on the list.” 

In November, the PGA announced the new exemption category, meaning Division I golfers could earn an exemption into a PGA event. Any player who wins a PGA event can claim the prize money and forfeit their amateur status and turn professional. Their other option is to deny it and remain an amateur. 

All three seniors finished in the top 10 of their final regular season tournament — the Augusta Haskins Award Invitational. They will next compete along with the rest of Florida’s men’s golf team in the SEC championship that starts April 19. 

Contact Madilyn Destefano at mdestefano@alligtor.org. Follow her on Twitter @DestefanoMadi.


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